This past August, the United Nations general assembly officially adopted a resolution delcaring Dec. 21 “World Basketball Day” every year going forward. You can read the entire resolution here, but the main points of the resolution stated that:
- Sports are an important enabler of sustainable development.
- Sports empower women, young people, individuals and communities, and persons with disabilities.
- Sports empower physical and mental health, education and social inclusion objectives.
- Sports, the arts, and physical activity have the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviors, as well as inspire people, break down racial and political barriers, combat discrimination and defuse conflict.
- Basketball creates a unique space of cooperation, physical movement and an interdependence that allows participants to see each other as human beings first and foremost.
- The United Nations general assembly proclaims December 21st as World Basketball Day.
By happenstance, the Ohio State men’s basketball team had a game yesterday, on the first ever World Basketball Day. After a torturous first half that saw Ohio State shoot below 40% and score just 31 points, the Buckeyes ran all over New Orleans in the second half, winning 78-36.
Head coach Chris Holtmann and starting center Felix Okpara will miss tonight’s game vs. New Orleans due to illness.— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) December 21, 2023
Associate head coach Jake Diebler will serve as acting head coach.
Before the game, associate head coach Jake Diebler was thrust into the head coaching role with very little notice, as head coach Chris Holtmann (as well as starting center Felix Okpara) were both unable to join the team due to an illness.
With just a few hours to prepare, Diebler was the captain of the ship. He guided Ohio State to a massive blowout win, holding an opponent under 40 points for the first time since 2013. It was a befitting result on a day where we celebrate the diversity basketball exposes us to as well as the adversity sports often force us to overcome.
After the game, Diebler was informed that today was, in fact, the first ever World Basketball Day. He was then asked to talk a little bit about how much the game means to him, and how it changed the trajectory of his life.
His response went for almost three minutes, without a break. As the son of a coach, Diebler has been around the game from the moment he could walk, and it was almost comical that on the first ever World Basketball Day, he found himself sitting in the head coach’s chair answering questions about his second-ever win as a head coach.
His full answer:
“I appreciate that question. Certainly, most people know my dad has coached high school basketball for a long time, and from the time I could walk I was around basketball, practice, and basketball players. And this game has meant so much to me, it’s something we’ve rallied around as a family. And so immediately, when I think about basketball, I think about family.
When I think about basketball, I think about all the relationships that I’ve been able to develop with coaches, players. My best friends have come about from basketball. I just facetimed with Duane Washington yesterday. Those moments… because the intensity of basketball, the adversity of basketball, the ups and downs of a season…that creates a bond.
And I think you look at like, one of my favorite parts is seeing guys get better. Seeing guys achieve their dreams. Seeing guys hear their name called on draft night. Like, that stuff is like… it’s hard to fully explain what that can mean — and again, it’s all surrounded by basketball.
Make no mistake, my life changed because of the people that I was around in college — the coaches I was around. I got saved in college and I wouldn’t have in college if it weren’t for my coaches. I met my wife here at the Schott because I was leaving practice. So like, this game has meant so much to me. It’s meant so much to my family. And I don’t take for granted a single day that I get to come to work.
Obviously being at The Ohio State University is a big part of that, but just the game in general. I’ve been able to travel all over the world. I’ve seen basketball break down barrier after barrier after barrier. You name the barrier, I’ve seen basketball break it down and create conversation and dialogue and friendship and relationships.
So yeah. Might have been a little bit long-winded there, but hopefully you’re getting a feeling for just how important this game is to me. It’s an honor to be a part of it on a daily basis.”
After a game where Ohio State once against stifled its opponent defensively, scored nearly 80 points and picked up its 10th win of the season, Diebler’s explanation about how meaningful this game is to him and how it continues to change his life every day felt like the most meaningful bit of the entire post-game presser.
Who knows, maybe one of these years, Diebler will sit up in the head coach’s chair leading his own program on World Basketball Day.